The first and most important thing to say is that rarebit isn’t a word. There’s no rarebitting involved in making Welsh rarebit, no rarebits are harmed during the cooking process and you don’t serve it on a rarebit, Welsh or otherwise. It’s thought that the term derives, rather obviously, from rabbit, and that the English called the dish Welsh rarebit simply because there’s no rabbit in it. Call it rabbit, call it duck, call it sliced Cornish unicorn if you like, you’ll never forget your first slice! (BBC)
Whilst nearly all recipes request thinning the cheese out with some form of liquid, there are concoctions a-plenty out there to choose from. VisitWales calls for an exceedingly traditional take on the classic by using laverbread and a splash of ale to give this 18th century creation a legendary twist:
- 225g mature Welsh cheddar
- 25g butter, melted
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon plain flour
- freshly ground black pepper
- 4 tablespoons Welsh beer
- 1 tablespoon laverbread
- 4 thick slices of bread
- Grate the cheese and put it in a saucepan along with the butter, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, flour and pepper. Mix well and put over a gentle heat. Gradually add the beer to moisten but do not make the mixture too wet. Stir until melted and when it has reached a thick paste remove from the heat and leave to cool a little.
- Meanwhile toast the bread on one side only then spread the laverbread over the untoasted side before spreading the cheese mixture. Grill gently until the topping is cooked through and well browned.
- The mixture can be made and kept in the refrigerator for several days if required.
Almost all recipes call for cheddar, but there are other options. Jane Grigson suggests Lancashire in English Food, as do Simon Hopkinson and Lindsay Bareham in The Prawn Cocktail Years, where they explain that, traditionally, a rarebit would have been made from "hard English cheeses – cheddar, double gloucester, cheshire and lancashire". Mark Hix, goes for caerphilly in his book British Regional Food, while Delia consigns any such concerns to the bottom of Lyn Tegid, and plumps for an equal mix of cheddar and parmesan for the Welsh Rarebit Soufflé in her Complete Cookery Course. (The Guardian)
Perhaps, however, we should be taking some authority from The Cheese Society by looking at their take on the classic:
- 125ml milk
- 1 tbsp flour
- 400g farmhouse cheddar, grated
- 175g fresh white breadcrumbs
- 1 heaped tsp English mustard powder
- 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (go for Lea & Perrins)
- 120ml ale, cider or Guinness (the last will give a stronger flavour)
- 1 egg, plus
- 1 yolk
- 6-8 slices, toasted crusty bread
- Heat the milk in a pan, whisk in the flour and bring to the boil. Allow to bubble until slightly thickened. Reduce the heat to low and add the grated cheese. Stir briefly until melted, then add the breadcrumbs, mustard powder, Worcestershire sauce and your choice of alcohol. Cook, stirring, until the mixture starts to leave the side of the saucepan. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly.
- Put the mixture in a food processor and, with the motor running, add the eggs. Keep it running for about a minute, then season with ground black pepper. Spread onto the toast and grill until browned and golden.
- This rarebit mixture can be stored in the fridge for up to five days (allow to cool first). It won't be runny and, if you're taking it out of the fridge, it'll be thick enough to slice. It's also delicious on big, flat, fried field mushrooms.
Whatever recipe you plump for, we know that you’ll agree that Welsh Rarebit really is the best cheese on toast in the world.
What’s your favourite version? Do you prefer white or brown toast, cheddar or caerphilly?